The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

It’s Called PowerPOINT, not PowerPOINTS ..
December 9, 2008, 6:58 am
Filed under: Comment

Powerpoint Hell

Lots and lots and lots of people slag off Powerpoint and if I’m being honest with you, none of their arguments stack up.

They say it’s a boring way to present … well sorry, but isn’t that more to do with the content they’ve written than the channel being used to express it?

They say that it forces you into a common approach … but how can a blank page do that? I mean, no one criticises A4 notepads for subliminally influencing how you approach your doodles.

I actually like Powerpoint.


For me, there is no other mass market tool that allows a formal presentation to be given to large amount of people in a simple and easy way.

The problem with Powerpoint … and the thing Microsoft should take on … is the fact people are just shit at presenting.


It’s not just that they cram tons and tons and tons of bullet points on every page … they don’t know when to stop.

Actually scrap that, most of the time it seems they don’t even know what they’re trying to achieve.

There’s no clarity, journey, clear thought process … their strategy seems to be to continually bash away at an increasingly uninterested audience with meaningless facts, figures and small type in the hope they will succumb to the pressure and agree with whatever they’re trying to flog.

‘Flog’ … that’s another issue.

How many times have I said you need to get someone to buy rather than try and sell?

It doesn’t matter how convincing you think you are, if you haven’t taken the time to understand what the audiences fundamental issues and challenges are, you’re not going to come up with something they’ll view as commercially valuable/viable.

‘View’ … that’s another thing.
Bad Slide - Too Much Text by Stephanie Booth Blindness by Stephanie Booth

If there’s one thing I absolutely detest, it’s when people read out exactly what is on their powerpoint slide.

Jesus, that’s almost as annoying as seeing a live band play their songs exactly as they originally recorded them … if I wanted that experience, I’d of stayed at home and listened to their album …

Too many people approach powerpoint presentations like they’re a formal document and yet they are absolutely different things.

A formal document goes into more detail because more often than not, you’re not there to be able to present the more intricate details … however when it’s a presentation, the powerpoint element should play a ‘supportive role’ to you, not be the lead player … which is why I treat powerpoint as being a visual accompaniment to the issues I’m talking about and then have a more detailed version available as the ‘leave behind’.

Does that mean more work?

Yeah – but only a little – and besides, hopefully the job has already been done by the time they ask for the document.

And yes, I believe this approach to presentations can be utilised by every industry – even media companies – because as much as they might think they have to show pages and pages of data, the fact is in the main, audiences want to see thought processes, insights and solutions, not the rating point for every Sunday night television program for the last 12 years!

Another subtle slide by me.

To be honest I don’t use powerpoint all the time but when I do, I control it rather than it controlling me … which is why I’ve done pitch presentations that have lasted 1 slide upto 55 … however they’re always written with the client in mind because if you approach a presentation with the goal of showing how smart you are, you’re basically publicising you’re not that clever at all.

Just incase some people don’t understand what I mean … I’m not saying you only do what a client wants, I’m saying your presentation and response must address the fundamental issues and challenges the client has detailed to you or you don’t stand a chance of getting them to buy the interesting and exciting ideas/work you believe are going to make a big difference to them. And you. πŸ™‚

So next time you’re writing a preso, think of it like a story – give it a beginning, middle and end – and when you get around to writing the thing up, remember it should be playing a ‘supporting role’ rather than a lead and it’s called powerpoint, not powerpoints.

[For those of you who can write a good preso [ie: you treat the software as if it was called GetToThePoint rather than FlimsyPoint] but panic when you have to deliver it, my post called Presentophobia may help a little]

22 Comments so far
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You’ve seen the kind of PPT preso’s I have to do here, Rob! zzzzzzzzzzzz!

Recently I’ve been able to loosen that template style for a more creative approach. The best one’s I’ve done have all had some sort of narrative element running through them. When you get it right, it makes presenting a whole let easier because you move through the slides looking forward to those few moments (just like a story) that you will really engage the audience.

Comment by Age

rob is presenting at a microsoft conference today. coincidence?

dont touch powerpoint. thats what planners are for especially planners who put pictures of themselves up on a big fucking screen so they can pretend to themselves theyre a big fucking hollywood star πŸ™‚

this is actually a good fucking post for a mariokart loser. theres almost some decent advice in it though you could sum it up by just saying a good presenter doesnt blame his fucking tools. and you wrote that “planners simplify” post. fucking hypocrite πŸ™‚

Comment by andy@cynic

look at campbells groupies lining up for approval. sweet. πŸ™‚

careful age you might get campbell to show you his pitch doco where he wrote it like some fucking kids story book. took him fucking ages to put together and when we won (which was down to my brilliance not his fucking “read with mother” bollocks) he was going around like he was jk fucking rowling or something. its taken us 5 years to stop the fucker going on about it and youve just opened the door to him to start again. youre in big shit if that happens age. big fucking shit

Comment by andy@cynic

hahaha! i need to see that.
Rob, i’ll save us all from the wrath of Andy and email you πŸ˜‰

Comment by Age

Jealousy is ugly Andy [ha!] … though I’m glad [and shocked] that you actually see some value in what I’ve written. And the only reason you’ve not used Powerpoint is because you can’t even turn a laptop on without assistance … Powerpoint would look like the control centre of NASA to you. πŸ™‚

PS: The JK Rowling preso – as you so nicely called it – was for OshKosh so there was a purpose for it, it wasn’t the result of a brain anurism thank you very much.

Comment by Rob

there are three people that have saved powerpoint from the sludge of bureaucratic mediocrity: marcus brown (and those sacrum slides), david byrne and his performance i β™₯ powerpoint; and the kids at love, whose whole site is made in powerpoint. beats 55 bullet points anyday.

i actually can’t stand powerpoint (preferring the new kid in town: keynote or a straight-up PDF), but i do love what it has done for being able to present your work easily without having to deal with slides. good post rob.

Comment by lauren

Remember Lauren – Powerpoint/Keynote are simply ‘tools’, their strength/weakness is inherently linked to the quality of the preso that has been written on it.

We wouldn’t say guitars are shit simply because a load of awful bands use them to write their shit which is why I don’t think it’s right to say Powerpoint is crap simply because a bunch of people write convoluted, crappy presos on them.

And yes, I am speaking at a Microsoft conference today πŸ˜‰

Comment by Rob

did i say that powerpoint is crap? i just said that i can’t stand it. and obviously tools are only as good as the people who use them, and it’s important to see people using them in awesome and creative ways as reinforcement.

like if all i ever heard of guitar was the crap that 99% of people who play guitar make, then i’d probably think guitar was crap (like i think the recorder is crap, because i’ve never heard someone play that thing well).

but then you get a hendrix, or a gregorian or a claypool and you can see how awesome they are.

Comment by lauren

jeffre’s talking to microsoft to πŸ™‚

Comment by lauren

You know a Gregorian who plays the guitar like Hendrix??? You walk amongst interesting people … πŸ™‚

I like Jeffre’s post … the only consolation is they actually realise they are undermining their own potential but habits die hard so it’ll be interesting to see what they’ll do to truly embrace the path they say they want to be on. Personally I think it needs some major top level management change – not because the present guys aren’t good [they proved they are] but because as much as they may want to ‘let go’, it’s hard when you’ve been doing the same thing incredibly successfully [be it directly or indirectly by their actions] for 30 odd years.

It’s quite interesting …

I was talking to some of the Google boys recently and said it’s amazing how much they are liked by the creative community because when things are all said and done, their “we’re nice and friendly and pretty middle-of-the-road” character/persona is the kind of thing most people in adland/designland/technoland would hate.

Says a lot about the state of the competition plus the fact people like companies that ‘do’ rather than just ‘say’ … which in Google’s case is especially powerful given they’ve created some things just because they liked the idea of them rather than because they had an inherently good business model with them.

And for the sake of Jonathan – who occasionally pops by and reads this – I will also add that society likes companies that genuinely puts something back into the community rather than claiming it, doing some token CSR effort and then trying to extract every cent they can from a quite-often blackmailed customer group. Yes Jonathan, I am saying you’re nice and not evil πŸ™‚

[Though George will be talking about Lauren again very soon ;)]

Comment by Robert

you evil shit campbell. im impressed. pity emah and jonathan are putting a contract out on your ass. you might be safe because theyre offering shitty money. they say its an easy job because no fucker can miss your ass

Comment by andy@cynic

aw shucks… you’re a lovely evil genius rob πŸ™‚

Comment by lauren

evil bastards after all or just recession marketing, Rob? πŸ™‚

Comment by niko

thank you Lauren.

Comment by Marcus

I agree with every thing this post says. I’ve been talking to Breitenbach about a post I’ve been meaning to write called “Presentation Anarchy” which a rallying call to “the audience” and not the presenter” – so I’ll keep my comment here short.

Nice one Campbell.

Comment by Marcus

“GetToThePoint rather than FlimsyPoint”

Brilliant. Even though you used to drum this view into me at every presentation, it’s still great to read. Great post that can really make a difference.

Comment by Bazza

its a sad fucking day when even my ol mucker marcus approves of something campbells written. hes gone all corporate since he started his own company πŸ˜‰

Comment by andy@cynic

no I fucking haven’t.

Comment by Marcus

lets call it an off day then πŸ™‚

Comment by andy@cynic

As someone who is exposed to Robert’s presentations on a frequent basis let me say he knows what he is talking about.

I can almost guarantee that if people follow your excellent advice, they will find clients more willing to book presentations which means more opportunities to make ideas happen.

Excellent post Robert.

Comment by Lee Hill

Powerpoint? Plannerpoint more like.

Comment by Billy Whizz

who the fuck is this billy character? he sounds like i might like him. but ill probably think hes a cock

Comment by andy@cynic

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